The ‘Buy Nigerian’ campaign: A monumental ruse
There is no gainsaying that Nigerians consume a plethora of goods and services sourced from other climes as evidenced by the superfluity of foreign products that dot the shelves of large departmental stores across the country. In the neighbourhood fruit markets, phrases like ‘Cotonou pineapple’ ‘Cameroun pepper’ and ’German mango’ are common place. Emphasis is laid on the country of origin in a bid to sway potential buyers to patronise them. It is a subtle marketing gimmick that is employed to titillate the psyche of the Nigerian shopper that what he is about to purchase is imported, hence, of superior quality to the Nigerian variant.
We have a huge appetite for anything foreign. Most Nigerians are dyed-in-the-wool supporters of football clubs based in Europe. Our local soccer league is scorned and regarded as a fourth class league. On match days, the terraces at match venues are usually empty while European league matches enjoy a bourgeoning followership in viewing centres across the country. This is not surprising because football administration in Nigeria is a study in mediocrity. Players have had to protest and sleep at the gates of government houses for their salaries to be paid.
Leadership at all levels in this country is also culpable of this grand deceit of promoting made in Nigerian goods and services only to turn around and patronise foreign made furniture, clothing, shoes and fabrics. The ‘Buy Nigerian’ mantra has remained a weary cliché that is bandied about by the political elite. The elite pontificates on the need to buy Nigerian products but whet their epicurean and ostentatious appetites by their obsession for foreign goods and services.
Seminars and symposia are usually replete with the singsong of ‘buy Nigerian.’ Yet, successive governments would gleefully take delivery of Korean, German and Japanese automobiles instead of patronising the fledgling automobiles manufacturing and assembling outfits in Nigeria, and putting in place enabling legislations and infrastructures that will expand,enhance and maximise their output.
In the late nineties, I was in the employ of a textile mill in Lagos that had the reputation of producing the best school uniforms popularly known as school checks, amongst other varieties of institutional fabrics that were largely government orders. The company also successfully handled the production of uniform fabrics meant for government agencies such as the Police, Army, Air Force, Navy and Immigrations uniforms.
Suiting materials made by this company were in high demand across Europe as proceeds from the exportation of these fabrics became the mainstay of the company. It wasn’t long before some unscrupulous and shady Nigerian traders, in cahoots with some Chinese textile manufacturers, cloned the flagship product of the company-the school check, complete with the Nigerian company’s brand name, boldly embossed on the fabrics to convince would-be buyers. The inferior fabrics were subsequently shipped to Nigeria.
Armed with a rock-bottom price regime, the retail market was flooded with the substandard products and the unsuspecting buyers fell for it. This adversely affected the sales of the organisation and resulted in the company shutting down some looms, operating below the installed capacity and a massive lay-off of production staff.
It is not all gloom as it is reported that our armed forces have started looking inwards to patronise Aba-made boots for its men. Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe and Senator Ben Murray-Bruce have been in the forefront of projecting this concept of buying Nigerian goods. This is quite commendable.
Nigerian-made wires and cables are the most sought after in the market owing to the critical acclaim of its quality and durability. If Nigerian made cables can become the market leader in that sector, then it’s possible that this narrative can be replicated across board.The success story recorded by Nigerian made electrical cables could be reproduced in other areas of our manufacturing endeavours.
However, for this drive to succeed there must be a legislative backing. The Public Procurement Act has to be amended to make it mandatory for government to patronise products made or assembled in Nigeria. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) must wake up from its slumber and set realistic minimum quality standards for products manufactured in the country.
Our excessive craving for foreign-made goods is legendary and is harming the Nigerian economy, while putting undue pressure on foreign exchange. A very strong campaign and enlightenment is needed to wean Nigerians from the obsession with foreign products. There has to be a sincere, national campaign aimed at changing the taste of Nigerians in favour of indigenous products as against the present compulsive craze for foreign made goods.
• Sunday, a health, safety and environment professional, wrote from Lagos.